A Main Street America survey released in April found that 7.5 million small businesses were at risk of permanent closure due to the pandemic. Most likely, many of these have shuttered their doors permanently.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the number of active small business owners fell by 22% from February to April 2020. It was the largest drop in recorded history, impacting virtually every industry.
There are plenty of grim statistics, but this article is about small business success in 2021. We’ll take a look at some survivor stories, how they did it, and the lessons they provide for thriving in the new year.
Lessons Learned for Small Business Success in 2021
According to a Society for Human Resource Management survey, 43% of small businesses needed to rethink how they do business since the coronavirus pandemic began. As many as 32% found new ways to deliver existing products and services. Of these, only 9% say they will discontinue the innovations they developed during the pandemic.
A new reality was created.
Small businesses that survived and are thriving learned to adapt and pivot. It was the only way to ride out the up and down disruptions and continued uncertainties. Many companies shifted to niche markets such as gifts, beauty and wellness products, and mask production.
Pivoting to Meet the Needs of a Changing Landscape
Community is a vintage clothing store in Athens, Georgia, owned by Sanni Baumgaertner. She closed her store in mid-March, but when Baumgaertner heard that local hospitals were short on masks, she stepped in to help out. Baumgaertner says she already had the equipment and a staff of seamstresses. She raised funds to pay salaries and purchase material and made more than 5,000 masks for a local hospital. As the mask shortage continued, Baumgaertner pivoted to full-time mask production. Now that closure regulations have eased, her store is open again. Her ability to adapt and shift to mask manufacturing saved her small business.
Innovating for Small Business Success in 2021
Moriarty’s Gem Art, a family-owned business in Crown Point, Indiana, was forced to close its retail store in March. Jeff Moriarty, marketing manager, says the company had to invent a way to stay in business quickly. Time was of the essence. They dusted off an undone item from previous strategic plans—live-streamed gem shows. Moriarty says they used YouTube Studio software to produce the livestreams. They advertised on social media, through emails, and on their website. Moriarty says they have more than 1,000 people who watch the livestream that airs twice a month. Not only has their small business survived COVID-19, but they’ve been able to stay connected to their customers and generate “a ton of sales.”
Adapting to New Realities
Small businesses in the in-person workshops and seminars vertical were especially challenged. TeamBuilding, for instance, experienced a sales drop to zero when the pandemic resulted in forced closures. CEO Michael Alexis says no new business came in, and all their events were canceled. Business as usual was not going to work. They began offering virtual team-building via Zoom, Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, and other platforms. Alexis says that TeamBuilding is now doing twice as much revenue as in pre-COVID. The shift to remote work also expanded their potential employee pool, enabling them to tap into new talent.
1. Scale Up Your Digital Marketing Strategy
The digital marketplace is not new. It existed before COVID-19. The pandemic pushed internet activity to the forefront, with most consumers stating they will stick with a digital life after COVID-19. Scott Jones, CEO of 123InternetGroup, told Forbes that he had seen an increase in companies anxious to create or update their websites. According to Jones, brands are focusing more on e-commerce and creating new social media campaigns.
More people and brands going online also means digital space has become more crowded. If you’re looking for small business success in 2021, upgrade your online presence. Improve your customer relationship management software (CRM). Bring as much as you can online to retain brand recognition and customer loyalty.
2. Add or Increase E-Commerce Capabilities for Small Business Success in 2021
Quarantines meant that people were stuck at home. Online shopping took off. One of the biggest winners of this pandemic is Amazon.com. If you haven’t added e-commerce options to your website and social media channels yet, now is the time to do it. Consumers say they intend to stick with digital commerce even after the pandemic is over. You’ll not only preserve customer loyalty to your brand, but you’ll tap into a new, global pool of potential consumers.
3. Understand Your Audience
Survey your customers to learn more about their concerns, priorities, and needs. Be customer-centric and offer genuine value. Check your marketing tone. Consumers worldwide continue to be anxious, have questions, and are searching for solutions and quiet spaces. Adapt your marketing tone to speak to these needs.
4. Stay Current With Changes in User Behavior
A Livestream survey found that 80% of users prefer watching brand videos to reading about the product or service on their website, blog, or social media channels.
With more people at home spending time on social media, digital advertising has become much more profitable. Take advantage of Facebook and Instagram channels to let your customers know you’re still in business. Show them how you’ve adapted to the new environment.
Produce webinars and webcasts. They’ve become excellent marketing tools this year.
Facebook ads are seeing a significant increase in ROI. You can quickly get your message out to current and new customers with engaging, targeted, and affordable ads, empowering you to scale your business.
Consider offering sales promos, special deals, or make some paid services free. For instance, Neil Patel put some of his subscription UberSuggest features on the free version. It didn’t result in more money coming in, but he says he experienced an uptick in traffic to his website. It’s a gesture to acknowledge that your customers are struggling, a way of saying thank-you and retaining brand loyalty.
4. Make Sure Your Content Is Optimized for all Platforms
Consumers have become tech-savvy, especially this year. Millions are utilizing mobile phones, social media, and online retail sites. This trend will continue in 2021 as consumers look for answers to questions, how-to’s, DIY, and other resources for balancing remote work and home and family. You don’t want their online experience with your brand to be frustrating.
6. For Small Business Success in 2021, Keep an Eye on Your Finances
A Society for Human Resource Management COVID-19 survey found that 57% of small businesses experienced revenue losses of 10%-30%, 37% reported losses above 30%, and 7% of respondents reported a total loss of revenue.
To secure small business success in 2021, you’ll need to revisit your operating budget, especially expenses. This should be standard, but now more than ever, knowing your finances will make the difference between stumbling or succeeding in 2021.
- Can you find services for less money?
- Are there more affordable suppliers?
- Can you shift funding priorities to ease your cash flow?
Set aside regular sessions to review the books, meet with your accountants and financial advisors, and maintain strong relationships with banks and creditors.
7. Take Care of Yourself
It’s impossible to predict what will happen during the new year. We’re planning for small business success in 2021, but we need to be ready for continually shifting landscapes. There may be more partial closures and many surprises.
Small business owners who are thriving say they pay careful attention to their physical and mental health needs. Prioritizing your health is something that passes on to your team and consumers.
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